R 766

Converted to standard gauge


R 766 stabled outside Newport Workshops in 1996.

At that stage it wore attractive Canadian red livery.


North British Locomotive Co, Glasgow

Builder’s Number & Year

27056 of 1951


Victorian Railways

Wheel Arrangement

4-6-4 ‘Hudson’

Entered Service

1 October 1952

Withdrawn from Service

1 April 1968

R 766 was commissioned in 1952 as one of 70 members of the Victorian Railway's R-class 4-6-4 ‘Hudson’ main line passenger locomotives. These locomotives were designed by Victorian Railways and were urgently required in post-World War 2 period, but construction had been delayed by competing priorities. Eventually construction was outsourced to the North British Locomotive Company, Glasgow but, as with so many post-war steam locomotives orders, delivery ultimately came years after the demand had required. The R-class superseded the A2-class 4-6-0 locomotives on fast passenger turns however the simultaneous arrival of first-generation diesels reduced their usefulness and the R-class was destined for relatively short lives and low mileages.

R 766 was among the last of the class in traffic when withdrawn in 1968, many sisters having already been scrapped. It was stored at Newport Workshops for some years before being restored to operation for enthusiast railtour duties. I understand the locomotive is owned by ‘R766 Incorporated’. During the 1990’s this locomotive was maintained alongside the Steamrail Victoria loco fleet at Newport Workshops and wore an attractive (but non-original) Canadian Red livery.

R 766 was later leased to West Coast Railway for operation on the 'Westcoaster' trains between Melbourne and Warrnambool (together with R 711) and received the name ‘City of Bendigo’. At that stage the locomotive received some rebuilding and modernisation along the same lines as R 711, including conversion to oil firing.

In May 2005 came the interesting news that R 766 had been leased to the Hunter Valley Railway Trust for movement to Branxton, NSW and conversion to standard gauge. This significant work has now been largely completed, featuring a few modifications such as the replacement of the leading bogie spoked wheel centres with those of the disc variety. Interestingly, the main driving wheels were swapped with those of sister R700 prior to fitting on new standard-gauge axles. Photographs from Branxton in November 2014 showed R 766 generally complete and being fettled and painted in preparation for testing and certification.

To my knowledge, firm plans for R 766 operations after overhaul are yet to be announced. The progressive expansion of standard gauge across Australia provides the opportunity for this relatively modern and fast steam locomotive to visit all the major cities and to enjoy a broad sphere of operation.

UPDATE: R 766 performed trial runs at Rothbury on 24 July 2021, as seen in this YouTube video by Graeme Belbin. A second YouTube video provides a project overview and status report as of August 2021. I understand main-line trials are expected to follow later in 2021, and hopefully this fine locomotive will soon be riding the rails around NSW! Further updates can be found on social media pages for the R 766 Update Group.

Wikipedia provides further information about the Victorian Railways R-class locomotives.



‘A brief history of Preserved Rolling Stock of Victoria’

by Norm Bray, Peter J Vincent and Daryl M Gregory.

Published by Brief History Books, PO Box 437, Sunbury, Vic 3429.


ARHS (Victorian Division) 'North Williamstown Railway Museum',

Third Edition 1968, revised 1977, reprinted 1980.


‘Locomotives of Australia - 1985 to 20103 (Fifth Edition), by Leon Oberg,

published 2010 by Rosenberg Publishing Pty Ltd.


‘Newsrail’ magazine of February 2015 (Volume 43 – Issue 2)

Published by the Australian Railway Historical Society, Victorian Division Inc.

Page updated: 29 October 2021

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